Sunday, June 10, 2007

Bluegrass Festival Cello

I woke up early Saturday morning (about 4:30 am, having gone to bed, exhausted, very early the night before). I needed to wash some clothes for the bluegrass festival and, of course, practice.

Because this was an outdoor festival and rain was predicted, I took out my old cello to tune it up, warm it up, and get it ready. But, I hated the sound. The tone was muffled and unclear. I've always loved the tone of this cello, but perhaps in comparison to my new cello, or perhaps because it hasn't been played in a few months, it just sounded awful.

So, I took the new one, for its wonderful resonance and strong tone, even if only I would hear it.

The performance tent was very large, providing shelter for both musicians and audience (and instruments). One side was open giving a nice view of the grounds. It didn't rain. Attendance was low though, perhaps because of the dire weather forecasts.

Our core group of 12-14 fiddlers was augmented by another 6-8 players I had never played with before (though I think I sold a bow to one of them). They were all excellent players, and we played most tunes faster than usual. Our hour went by in a flash. The fiddler next to me told me she heard my cello, and that I sounded great! The fiddler in front of me said she could not hear me at all. Oh well, there was a microphone aimed at me, so maybe someone in the audience heard. The wife of one of the string bass players (we had two--"That's why they call them double basses," quipped one) told me she saw me, so that's a start.

I am going to try to memorize a fiddle tune a week on the cello, as well as work out some accompaniments for some tunes, and/or collect some written accompaniments that I like. I love the Music for Three (Last Resort Music) accompaniment for Coleraine, for instance. Very easy, but twangy, in a good way. That way I can alternate melody with accompaniment.

The next concert is in two weeks.

Today is a gloriously beautiful day. But I have to work, so I will take my work, and later, my cello, out on the deck.


CelloKelc said...

Hey! I'm a cellist looking to get into playing bluegrass. Do you have any songs/books you could suggest?? I'd appreciate any help!

SycamoreBreeze said...

Hey CelloKelc,

Being a year late, I don't much expect you'll need this. But I recently bought BackUp Trax: Old Time Fiddle Tunes for Cello, and have enjoyed it. It's a CD with about 20 fiddle tunes recorded on the cello. There is an accompanying booklet with the music written out, though, you may need a magnifying glass to read it.

The tunes are pretty, and, if nothing else, it has offered a great exercise in learning to mimic a melody by ear. An essential skill for most bluegrass players.

Anonymous said...

Heck, I'm a year later than you, and your answer helped me. Thanks!